Our Church’s theme for 2016 is “Joyful exiles” (Hebrews 11:16). Looking at the theme, a bible verse that came to mind is “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” [Nehemiah 8:10b (NASB)]
I wonder what the “joy of the Lord” means? Is it “The joy given by God to His people to strengthen them, especially in times of trials and tribulations” or “The Lord’s joy when He sees His people still loving, treasuring, trusting and obeying Him in the midst of trials and tribulations”?
I think it is both.
The Joy of the Lord Given to His People
“The joy of the Lord” originates from God. It is not something we can find in this world. Because it is given by God to His people, it is very precious. Nothing can take this joy away from us – not even illness, calamities, persecutions, trials and tribulations. In fact, God gives us His joy that we may face them confidently and victoriously. God’s joy is all-powerful. It enables His people living in this fallen world to endure and overcome pain, hardship and suffering.
We have the confidence that God allows us to experience them for a purpose, and one day, we will not experience them anymore. God’s joy is everlasting. It is not temporal. It lasts forever.
The Lord’s Joy
“The joy of the Lord” comes from God and it leads us back to Him. This is something we must not forget. If we think the joy of the Lord is only for our own pleasure, then we would have missed out on the greatest joy of all – God Himself. God is our joy. We do not need anything or anyone else to give us joy.
“What does “God is our joy” mean? My reflection, based on sermons, articles and my own experience, is that His pleasure and smile is our joy, His essence (attributes) is our joy, His presence is our joy, His will and purpose is our joy. In short, what pleases Him, pleases us.
If God is our joy, then we can rejoice in Him in all circumstances. The Bible exhorts us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NASB) to “Rejoice always…” How? The Holy Spirit will constantly remind and help us to fix our eyes on God Himself. He will remind us from His Word, God’s great salvation for us, God’s close relationship with us (we now call Him, ‘Abba’ or ‘Father’), God’s will and purpose for us, God’s good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do, God’s presence with us here and in heaven. And He will alsoremind us that our greatest joy is to see God ‘pleased and smiling’.
But why do some of us not seem to have the Lord’s joy in our lives? It could be because we do not know how to appropriate it or we deny ourselves of it because we do not find God more attractive than this world.
Hence, we do not walk closely with God, we do not enjoy His presence, we do not know Him well from His Word and converse with Him daily, we do not find God’s values and ways better than ours and the world’s. If we are in this situation, let us turn our eyes to God again, and ask Him to forgive us and be close to us as we draw close to Him. Let us ask Him to give us His joy.
Therefore Church, let us appropriate God’s joy and enjoy Him to the fullest everyday. And let us remember that the joy of the LORD comes from God and it leads us back to Him.
By Lim Han Soon (YCKC Bulletin 23&24 April 2016)